About that Cubs Closer Battle

I recently purchased a copy of the Bill James Handbook 2009...I know, a little late to the party...but it does a great job of presenting information that isn't readily available, information I'll pass along as they become relevant throughout the season. I'm also going to get a subscription to BillJames.net to update everyone as the season progresses.

But thumbing through the book they have all kinds of stats on relievers and let's see if any of it will help Lou pick his closer on the year.

James has a piece on the "21st Century Bullpen" and goes on about how the modern day bullpen has changed drastically over the last 10 years or so and in a very Jamesian way, goes about reclassifying it and includes 21 categories in total ranging from easy to tough saves, clean outings and so forth. I'm not going to republish all his work, but here's some of the relevant ones. Of course, I'm going to have to explain some of these first.

Consecutive Days - A count of how many times a pitcher has thrown on back-to-back days or games in the rare case of a double-header.

Long Outings - Outings of 25 or more pitches

Leverage Index -A metric developed by Tangotiger to account for the game situation. 1.00 is average.

Easy Saves - Saves where the first batter a reliever faces does not represent the tying or winning run and there are three outs or less remaining; 58% of all saves are easy and relievers come through on 87% of them.

Regular Saves - not an easy or tough save; 37% of all saves are regular saves and they are converted 57% of the time

Tough Saves - reliever enters with the potential tying or winning run on base; 5% of all saves are tough saves and they're converted 22% of the time. For the three save types, you'll see something like 15-17 which means 15 converted saves of that type in 17 of those opportunities.

Clean Outing - a game in which the reliever is not charged with a run and does not allow an inherited runner to score.

Save/Hold Percentage - We're use to seeing save percentage but it discriminates against anyone that isn't a closer since they rarely get saves to boost that percentage. So instead James adds up holds and save.

Player Cons
Long 
Leverage
IR % Easy
Reg
Tough
Games Clean
Sv/Hld Pct
Opp OPS
Gregg 20 13  2.1 .07 15-17 10-16 4-5 72 54 .79 .585
Marmol 27 17  1.5 .21 4-5 2-3 1-1 82 59 .95 .508
Wood 19 11  2.0 .17 21-24 13-16 0-0 65 50 .85 .632

 

So I was probably a bit overly critical on Kevin Gregg when the Cubs acquired him as the Marlins certainly put his feet to the fire a lot more than Lou did with Kerry. Gregg did tie for the league lead in blown saves with 9(with Manny Corpas), but he also tied for the league lead in tough saves with 4 (with Brian Wilson). Kerry had the 5th highest NL total in Easy Saves and 4th in regular saves (Gregg was 7th in regular saves). Also, Gregg came in with 15 runners on base, allowing just one of them to score all year, while Wood entered a game with just 12 inherited runners, allowing 2 of them to score.

Kerry did have a pretty unfortunate run of bad luck when you look at that above link and his BABIP numbers, so I still have little doubt that he'll be a better pitcher than Gregg this year (enters keyboard shortcut for "if healthy). But no reason to keep revisiting that argument as Wood is a Cleveland Indian and it's Kevin Gregg versus Carlos Marmol for the closer job.

In terms of their rank among other pitchers, Marmol's 27 outings on consecutive days was the tied for the fifth most in the majors and of course he led the NL with 30 Holds (second to Scott Shields in the majors with 31). Marmol actually dominates most of the NL leaderboards in the book.

10th in Inherited Runners Scored % with a minimum of 30 IR - 21.3% (Cotts was 9th, Eyre was 6th and Ohman 2nd for what it's worth)

3rd in Relief Opponent OBP - .251

1st in Relief Opponent SLG - .257 (Gregg was third at .271)

10th in Relief Opponent BA versus lefties - .182

1st in Relief Opponent BA versus righties and overall - .098 and .135

1st in Relief OBP 1st Batter Faced - .185

1st in Relief Opponent BA w/ Runners On - .148

2nd in Relief Opponent BA w/ RISP - .133

1st in Strikeout/Hit Ratio - 2.85 (Harden was 2nd with 2.28)

1st in Opponent OPS vs Slider - .302 

So what does this all mean? Well I think Carlos Marmol is kind of good at pitching...can we all agree on that? As for who should be the closer, I don't think the Cubs can go wrong on this decision. Lou isn't going to let the front office dictate his decision, but from a payroll standpoint, letting Gregg close will keep Marmol's arbitration dollars down a little longer and make Gregg more attractive if he becomes a free agent at the end of the year and the Cubs could get two draft picks assuming he's a Type A free agent. Pitchers, managers and fans generally like the defined roles in the bullpen and I don't think there's any doubt that you'd rather have Marmol coming in to escape those 7th and 8th innning jams over Gregg. If you give Marmol the closer job, Lou will hesitate on using him before the 9th and that's probably not the best use of such a dynamic pitcher. Ideally, the two players wouldn't care what innings they pitched and Lou would bring in Marmol in the toughest of situations whether it's the 7th, 8th or 9th. But that's not the reality of today's game so I'll be hoping that announcement from Lou later this week will be that Kevin Gregg is the 2009 closer.

Comments

THT's 5 Questions about the Cubs, some weirdness about Lilly having a career year in 2008, apparently 2007 didn't happen.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/cubs-fiv...

Viva El Birdos preview

http://www.vivaelbirdos.com/2009/3/26/810729/cubs-...

claimed off waivers by the Indians...

The Injuns are becoming the new Orioles with their ex-Cubs.

cubs pre-season baseball on MLB Network at 10:30 eastern.

This is useful. I was definitely leaning toward Marmol but I guess we could give Gregg a try. I was thinking that Gregg would be a good set-up man but if Marmol can more outs and be more durable in the setup role that is Ok.

An argument for Gregg as set up man: He'll probably get used more. If one of their arms gets blown out, I'd rather it not be Marmol's, who would presumably get into fewer games as a closer than as a set up man. Lou brought in Marmol whenever he badly needed an out late in the game. If he does that again this year I smell injury or wear out. That said, it's not a huge issue for me. They both seem like they'll get the job done.

lou brought marmol in almost any time he felt like it no matter the lead or protection. he worked 1/2 the games last year.

the last few weeks before eyre was shipped off marmol was warmed with eyre many times and marmol came in anyway...even in a couple games the cubs had in hand. marmol's use in august was just plain weird, imo.

Speaking of Scott Eyre...

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/blog/big_league_stew/p...

season tickets are down close to 50% already, if they don't get off to a hot start or walk-up ticket sales are way down, they may need to start shedding contracts.

they'll probably be a few of those stories as the year goes on...

im still amazed how big their payroll is for a mid-market team.

Either's a good choice, but the closer role is so defined, that I'd rather have Gregg there. Marmol's the more talented pitcher and he can be brought in when he's really needed.

I don't think it's always about who is the better pitcher. I like Marmol setting up Gregg knowing that Marmol is probably the better pitcher.

sori, font, lee, bradley, rami, Johnson, soto, riot, marshall.

Zito starting for the Giants I believe...

nice! a lineup worth watching.

Parachat?

always open...doubtful I'll be there myself though.

I'm off tomorrow.

I'll be there at some point.

staying back in Mesa tonight, will start tomorrow says Miles

cubs.com says Fukudome is starting. Let me guess who's not right.

Good call.

Since I have to get up for work at 4 AM, I say boo on 9:30 start times. I'll probably catch a couple of innings before heading to bed, at least catch some of the starters.

Pretty much agree with your reasons on the Gregg/Marmol thing.

I do think Marmol's going to become human this year, though. He had that great BABIP number last year, and the history of 5'10" guys who K 1.4 guys an inning just isn't there to make me think he can keep it up forever.

Carlos Marmol is listed at 6'2", though I still think that high a K-rate would be very difficult to sustain, as would his BABIP numbers.

i'd be more worried about his sketchy control, imo.

for all the bats he misses and the defenders the batted balls find, his control is rarely good.

He's certainly due to give back some, a .185 BABIP just isn't reasonable even for a reliever, but I wouldn't be surprised if HR/9 rate went down as well to offset some of that. Marmol's listed at 6-2" on the four sites I just looked at...

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  • game restarting...degrom on the mound, hammel taking his AB.

    crunch 18 min 31 sec ago view
  • rain delay...bah.

    crunch 1 hour 23 min ago view
  • Indians extend their streak.

    Darwin Barney gets tagged with the loss.

    Mornington Crescent 1 hour 30 min ago view
  • delayed until 7:20 -EST- (tarp off the field)...

    CLE/TOR in the top 18th in case you're bored. 2nd baseman r.goins pitching for TOR...hit 90mph so far. 1ip 2h 1bb 0k, 0 r/er (bb was ibb). he threw a fastball/change mix. crowd loved it. d.ross is not impressed.

    d.barney strands j.lake at 2nd in the bottom 18 for the cubs bluejays...to the 19th!

    -cubs game has begun-

    crunch 1 hour 45 min ago view
  • BRADSBEARD: Javier Assad was still pitching into the 6th inning, and the first batter he faced reached base on an E-4 (that was Assad's 70th and final pitch of the game). Then Leathersich relieved Assad and retired the second batter 4-3 on the first pitch of the AB (the runner at 1st base advanced to 2nd on the play), and then on an 0-1 pitch the third batter in the inning (second one faced by Leathersich) lined into an inning-ending 6-4 DP (baserunner doubled off 2nd base). When calculating GO/AO, double plays and triple plays count as only one out. 

    Arizona Phil 2 hours 1 min ago view
  • Wow. The site actually loaded without an error! Happy 4th all, and Go Cubs!

    The E-Man 2 hours 57 min ago view
  • OK -- my 4th of July resolution is to try to stay more positive. So -- 10 games to the AS break, meaning the Cubs will be in first place at the break! First time since...2008? Also, hopefully, Willson, KB and Javy learned something about Familia yesterday that they can use in the future.

    billybucks 3 hours 32 min ago view
  • Hmmm, my math might be fuzzy but if he retired 3 batters with 3 pitches, how did he get a 1/1 GO/AO ratio?

    bradsbeard 4 hours 57 min ago view
  • Pls DFA Peralta when Richard comes back. Richard 1 IP, O R, O ER, 0 BB, 2 Ks in first rehab appearance. We really need to trade for a LHRP.

    chitownmvp01 5 hours 14 min ago view
  • "The Boston Red Sox were banned from signing any international players for the next year and had five of their teenage prospects declared free agents on Friday after a Major League Baseball investigation showed they circumvented signing-bonus rules last year, a source familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports."

    https://www.yahoo.com/sports/news/source-red-sox-b...

    Rob Richardson 8 hours 53 min ago view
  • The thing with Heyward is its not just free agency. He is way under performing his career #s. He's making the same % of contact but his soft contact is much higher and hard contact much lower than all his previous years so there is something very specifically going on this year causing the issues. Chances are he will eventually get back to his previous #s and it's better to get the slump now and get that hot run later but I wish I knew what is different about this year. He's either just not seeing the ball as well or a swing change is causing it.

    johann 9 hours 9 min ago view
  • Only 3 pitches for Leathersich. Not much of a rehab outing.

    Thanks for the reporting Phil.

    QuietMan 9 hours 21 min ago view
  • He's the nastiest pitcher I've seen in awhile. I'm gonna give them all a mulligan on this one.

    Coghlan's strike out was more disappointing. He was fighting off a lot of pitches and not swinging at crap, and on the last pitch, he swung at stuff he was laying off, and struck out.

    And Heyward, too. I don't blame Heyward - I blame free agency. I hate it. You almost never get a valid return on the investment.

    I look forward to the day when ball players own the teams. The current economics are not sustainable.

    Old and Blue 10 hours 22 min ago view
  • Oh, I'm sure you're right. He's not 27-27 in saves for nothing. But, man, I hope they learned last night that he didn't throw a single pitch in the zone to KB, Contreras or Baez, and they all just kept swinging.

    billybucks 12 hours 30 min ago view
  • Sounds like a much better game than last night's fiasco in Flushing.

    Old and Blue 12 hours 46 min ago view
  • I'm pretty sure it looks like a sweet pitch on the way in. How many sinkers like that are there at 98 mph? I agree that they should just do a Lackey and stand their with their bat on their shoulders until he throws a strike next time, but I can see how that's hard to do.

    The bullpen, on the other hand, is a mess, and Heyward is starting to piss me off.

    Old and Blue 12 hours 47 min ago view